Ski season brings swine flu fears

12:35, Jun 23 2009
CLEANLY DOES IT: Daniela Tapper, left, 7, and Hannah Manalaysay, 6, demonstrate good hand-washing techniques at St Joseph's School in Queenstown yesterday.

Queenstown schools and businesses are updating their pandemic response plans as concerns grow that the resort, expecting its usual ski-season influx of overseas visitors, could be hit by swine flu.

However, medical officer of health for Otago and Southland Dr Derek Bell said yesterday a letter sent to schools last week suggesting children who had just returned from overseas should be kept home for seven days, even if they presented no flu symptoms, had been confusing.

A second letter sent out by the ministry had rescinded that as a directive and left it to schools to act responsibly. Several principals admitted yesterday they were a little confused about the ministry's conflicting instructions but had since clarified that unless children had flu-like symptoms, there was no need to keep them home.

Dr Bell said although that policy had been adopted in Victoria, where there were now 1000 confirmed cases of swine flu/ influenza A, it would be "incredibly difficult" to enforce in schools here because the same rules would have to apply to staff.

New Zealand had just 17 confirmed cases yesterday.

About eight to 10 visitors had been intercepted at Queenstown Airport and gone into voluntary quarantine since the outbreak in April.

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None of them was confirmed to have symptoms.

The real risk to Queenstown would grow as the resort's international trans-Tasman flights increased from twice-weekly, half-full flights to fully laden flights arriving 14 times a week, including some from Melbourne, Dr Bell said.

There were two nurses manning the airport and this number would have to be increased, he said.

Queenstown had the added risk of an influx of young ski-season workers, who usually crowded 10 or 12 to a flat, travelled on buses together to and from work and liked to "party hard in crowded places", Dr Bell said.

 

The Southland Times